Contents of the national security policy mention a threat of the possible use of chemical and biological weapons by terrorists operating in Pakistan. The report doesn’t claim that the threat is imminent or otherwise, but confirms that the possible use of such weapons cannot be completely ruled out.
Compared to conventional attacks, the results of chemical and biological attacks are far more disastrous. Once unleashed, there is absolutely nothing that can be done to control the aftermath. The recent incident in Syria involving the use of such weapons serves as a good example. Therefore, the concerned authorities cannot afford to be reactionary in their approach since it accomplishes nothing. “Prevention” is the most effective way to counter terrorism. It is this very proactive approach towards intelligence gathering which has not allowed another 9/11 to take place in the US, despite various elements plotting around the world with hopes to re-enact the tragedy.
Chemical and biological weapons are not easily acquired, especially by non-state actors. There may be several buyers, but not many sellers. This situation favours intelligence agencies in identifying potential threats provided they have done their homework. Sending anthrax or a similar chemical agent through mail, as witnessed in the US, may not be all that difficult to do. But, the amount of damage such an attack is likely to cause is fairly limited, which simply defeats the purpose unless the only aim is to make a statement of sorts. However, carrying out a large-scale chemical or biological weapons-attack is a completely different ball game altogether. The plotters must be trained well to handle the sophisticated mechanism in order to ensure the plan doesn’t backfire. Furthermore, the weapons need to be transported, set-up and eventually launched from a preferred location. In order to successfully carry out these necessary steps, the terrorists require time, space and a local network for assistance. Luckily, this whole exercise exposes them to various vulnerabilities. Now, whether the concerned intelligence agencies choose to capitalize on available opportunities is an entirely different matter.
The most prominent non-state militant organisation currently operating in Pakistan is the TTP. Time and again, it has displayed its understanding of likely political and security consequences against its actions. To an extent, it cares about public opinion, at least, to the extent a terrorist organization can. The international community is united against the use of chemical and biological weapons, and any such news will take the world by storm. For an organisation which attributes great value to strategy, it is very unlikely that the TTP will be so keen to establish itself as such a brutal local and international villain.